Aston Martin Lagonda is ordering a global recall of 1,658 Vantage cars after problems with a routine transmission software update led to incidents in China in which some cars stalled and lost power, its CEO told Reuters.

Chief executive Andy Palmer said the decision was taken after a team of Aston Martin engineers went to China in May to investigate a problem that several customers there had been complaining about since 2014.

"Normally (recalls) start in America. I don't think it is the only example, but it's interesting that it started from China and becomes a global recall," Palmer told Reuters by telephone.

"It demonstrates the importance of China, the sophistication of the customer and the diligence of the authority there."

The carmaker sold 8% of it 3,259 car global tally in China last year.

Palmer told the news agency Aston Martin's plan was conveyed to Chinese regulatory agencies that had taken up the issue after dissatisfied customers complained. Formal documents were submitted.

Chinese authorities did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Palmer did not say how much the recall would cost, but knowledgeable people close to the company estimated the total cost at around GBP300,000 (US$380,760).

The recall will cover 1,658 Vantage cars built between June 2010 and September 2013 with the Sportshift I and Sportshift II automated manual transmission gearboxes, including 113 that were sold in China. The Vantage is the only Aston Martin model with such a shift system.

Palmer said the problem occurred because some dealerships in China failed to reset the clutch position after software updates to the transmission system.

"In the normal course of events, when you make a software change, you have to re-teach the engagement position of the clutch. And most of our dealers around the world automatically did that," he said. 

If the clutch is not re-taught the biting point – the point when the clutch plate engages with the engine plate – "it's possible that a car could initially stall while in operation," he told Reuters.

Aston Martin sent its engineers to China after it tried and failed to replicate the stalling problem in its own engineering laboratories. When they arrived, they discovered that some cars suffered unusual noise and vibration, and in worst cases an engine stall, after the new software was installed.

The stalling caused a complete loss of power in some cases, shutting off the engine and power to the electrically-assisted steering and brakes.

Given that dealers and customers in China may have less experience operating and maintaining supercars like Aston Martins, Palmer said the company should have spelt out to dealerships what they needed to do.

"I blame us," Palmer told Reuters. "Basically we should have explicitly said within the service action for the software that we should re-teach the clutch. We didn't explicitly say that. Therefore we take responsibility for fixing it."

Palmer said the company knew of 21 instances of potential sudden engine stall, all in China.

The fluid pipe connectors on the gearboxes would also be replaced during the recall, he said.